Although there have been recent declines in regular smoking among young people, smoking rates are still unacceptably high with around 15% of 15 year olds smoking regularly.
The health risks of cigarettes are largely documented, and, together with the addictive properties of smoking, there is clearly a need to assist current smokers to stop.
An important area of research is assessing how many people use tobacco, and to investigate factors that determine the uptake and continuation of smoking. These include environmental, sociodemographic, media and genetic influences.
Some smokers find it very difficult to quit, despite a lot of effort. For these people, who may have tried several times to stop, alternative forms of nicotine without the major health risks of smoked tobacco, may be a more positive option than continuing to use smoked tobacco.
Similarly, excessive use of alcohol has become increasingly common, especially in younger people and we undertake research not only into the effects of sustained alcohol use, but ways of treating alcohol addiction.
What we are doing about...
Tobacco/alcohol behaviours and associated risks
We work to understand the key drivers of key drivers of smoking and use of alcohol, by examining ways to reduce uptake of these substances, as well as longer-term effects on the individual and families.
Individual measures to assist smokers and drinkers
Around 19% of the England population currently smoke, and our group undertakes research into the most effective ways to assist smokers to quit. This includes pregnant women for whom smoking can harm not only themselves but their baby.
Population measures to challenge smoking behaviour and alcohol consumption
Although the UK have introduced several population-wide measures to curb consumption of tobacco, research is underway to assess the effectiveness of existing legislation (e.g. smoke-free laws) and provide evidence for other measures such as prohibition of ‘point of sale’ displays and plain packaging of cigarettes, and minimum unit pricing of alcohol.
Reducing harm from tobacco and alcohol
Utilise datasets to examine the long-term effects of alcohol on users of these products and their families. Evidence for the harmful effects of tobacco is well known, but less evidence exists for alcohol use.
The group’s work on secondary care cessation services strongly influenced the content of 2013 NICE guidelines.